Fuel Cell Laptops Still Clunky, But Getting There

Lynne Kiesling

This BBC article from last Wednesday provides some good information about methanol fuel cell-powered laptops.

The technology promises to supplement or replace today’s batteries in laptops. Instead of storing power, fuel cells generate electricity by breaking down methanol via an electrochemical process.

The cells can be recharged by topping them up with methanol from a cartridge.

Recently, Toshiba, Hitachi, Fujitsu, Samsung and Sanyo, among others, have shown prototypes that suggest that the technology is just around the corner.

It has taken time to shrink parts such as pumps to sizes small enough for the fuel cells to be commercially acceptable.

I’ve followed the development of fuel-cell-powered devices with great interest during the four years of KP’s existence, and in my prior posts I expressed optimism about the potential for starting small with fuel cells and then scaling up. The BBC article goes on to profile Toshiba’s effort, which they expect to commercialize in about a year. They are working on the user-friendliness of the shapes and sizes of the methanol refills, and have done extensive safety testing.

Won’t that be the day? Forgot charger, rushing through the airport, but I can stop at the wireless store on the concourse and get a methanol cartridge refill? How cool will that be? Obviously my vision is a “dual-fuel” laptop with a battery and a methanol port, but who knows? Perhaps soon the nickel metal hydride and lithium ion batteries will go the way of the whale oil lamp and the horse buggy: into the dustbin of technological obsolescence. One hopes that the battery manufacturers will not mount a successful lobby to prevent that dynamic process from occurring …


4 thoughts on “Fuel Cell Laptops Still Clunky, But Getting There

  1. Let’s hope you’re right about the technology. However, I do wonder about the prospect of people taking containers of extra fuel onto airplanes.

  2. Or even laptops containing liquid fuel reservoirs.

    However, enough laptops “fuel celling” away might add some welcome water vapor to the passenger compartments.

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